11/6/2005- Mike Andrews, 10.0km from Moel Elio
Moel Eilio SH 566 588 to Nantgwynant (to the West of the river) 628 509 10 km exactly on the GPS.
This was a spectacular flight of course. It was quite hard to get up at Moel Eilio, the thermals were very small and punchy in a stiff-ish northerly wind. I had a couple of dud attempts, side-landing each time before I sussed the conditions. Then I had a long wait for the right moment to launch. That paid off and I actually got much higher on Moel Eilio than Ken and the others did who followed me. It allowed me a straight glide to the top of Moel Cynghorion. There were only zero's there despite the face into the wind, so I lost no time in gliding on to Clogwyn cliffs - I was encouraged by the fact that a local pilot was already getting lift there. Arriving quite low, I soon found strong but tight lift and got enough height to head across to the NW shoulder of the big mountain with the railway. I closely watched the smoke direction on the trains to check the airflow. I was now in and out of cloud and decided to wait to see if it would clear. I worked my way round to Clogwyn Station and out to the N. To the NE of Clogwyn Station, while just above base, and about 300 feet above the mountain, I had a massive collapse 75-80%. It came straight out but it really put me off flying in that air towards Crib Goch and I headed back over Clogwyn again. I got low and had again to use the Clogwyn cliffs etc to get back up. This was fun in a spectacular place.
In the meantime cloudbase had lifted enough for me to see the train smoke blowing up the W face of Snowdon, this gave me confidence that it was not in rotor and I circled up until I was 50 feet above the summit station. A last burst of lift took me neatly on my final 360 over the summit, about 50 feet above it. It was black with people who waved and cheered - very satisfying. As I completed the 360 I lost the lift and headed S to get safety height above the ground. I made it over the southern ridge Bwlch Main, but did not have the height or lift to get over the two ridges to the north. I was then committed to flying down Cwm Llan and was worried about rotor. I realised that, being a big mountain, there might well be lee-side thermals but I found no more than zeros over the Watkin Path. As I got low towards the main valley at Hafod y llan the air got rough with three valleys intersecting. The wind direction (though I did not realise it then) was switching between the three directions. I thought I had enough height to land beyond the Glaslyn river, but there were lots of wires and small fields surrounded by trees. I opted for a bigger field because of the gusty wind, and turned back, only to find that the tail wind had got stronger and I had a few anxious moments on the speed bar before I was sure I could clear the river and the high trees next to it. I did have plenty of height left for a good fast landing (to cut through the wind gradient), but was mighty glad to be down in one piece, to eat my sandwiches by a delightful river in the sun, listening to cuckoos calling. Only 10km but a big experience! In retrospect, when I lost the lift I should have headed back West, I could then have done what Rich and others did as the cloud cleared and they could fly to the north of Crib Goch. It was a split-second choice, and I had the problem that I was not familiar with the geography, and I had not liked that big collapse.